‘Sukma’ is a Symptom

WHILE CHATTISGARH AND Madhya Pradesh, two BJP-ruled states, otherwise billed as ‘‘development’’ models, frequently hit the headlines for maoist violence, police atrocities against tribals do hardly get currency. Only Human Rights Bodies and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC ) highlight rights abuses by security forces. NHRC has recently found 16 women, prima facie victims of rape, sexual and physical assault by police personnel in Chattisgargh even as it awaits the recorded statement of about 20 other victims. Also, the Commission says the government of Chattisgargh is vicariously liable for such rights violations. What is more the Commission has directed the Additional Director General of Police (CID ), government of Chattisgargh to ensure that SC/ ST (PoA) Act is invoked in all the cases, wherein the victims belonged to Scheduled Castes / Scheduled Tribes communities.

Ironically, the BJP government of Chattisgargh has, meanwhile, informed the NHRC that they have prepared a six-point Action Plan to ensure that human rights are adequately protected in Bastar. A surrealistic scenario indeed!

 For one thing Sukma killings have blown the lid off the Modi government’s claims of rapid development in BJP-ruled states. And the Deputy Inspector General of the CRPF, while talking to the media,  was attempting to answer a question about why the local population appeared to be siding with the Naxals rather than the government authorities. According to him the reason why the government has failed to win the confidence of adivasi population in the Bastar region is simple — the pace of development is tardy.

This gives the lie to the Prime Minister’s oft-repeated claim that his main mantra is development. Many ruling party spokesmen attribute the BJP’s recent election wins in UP and elsewhere to the promise to implement development projects at a fast pace. However, the Sukma massacre, in which 25 CRPF persommel were killed, has exposed the fact that even in a state like Chhattisgarh where BJP has been in power for over a decade, there is no tangible progress on the ground as far as road construction is concerned.

Sukma is only one symptom of a malaise that has been plaguing India. Despite tall promises of “development, development, development” the ground realities are different. The story is the same in other States as well — in Jharkhand, 0rissa, the North East and Maharashtra. There is a clear nexus between politicians in power, bureaucrats and contractors to go slow on development in backward regions, especially in locations where illegal mining is a lucrative money-spinning activity.

Especially when it comes to mining and other major construction projects like dams, the local people do not always welcome development – for the simple reason that development leads to displacement.

Development does not seem desirable to adivasis who are fearful of being uprooted from their traditional homesteads. Development then becomes disruptive. Statistics show that since Independence, development has led to the displacement of some 65 million tribal people, according to 12th Plan documents. Even though tribals constitute only 8 per cent of total population, 55 per cent of the displaced are tribals

The fear is that the resistance will not end as long as the causes of discontent – namely, “development” that hugely benefits the corporations, but not the people – are not addressed at a negotiating table with the rebels, with the full participation of the victims of displacement.

Vol. 49, No.45, May 14 - 20, 2017